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By far the most important part of history, as we have formerly endeavoured to explain, is that which makes us acquainted with the character, dispositions and opinions of the great and efficient population by whose motion or consent all things are ultimately governed. After a nation has attained to any degree of intelligence, every other principle of action becomes subordinate; and, with relation to our own country in particular, it may be said with safety, that we can know nothing of its past history, or of the applications of that history to more recent transactions, if we have not a tolerably correct notion of the character of the people of England in the reign of Charles I., and the momentous periods which ensued. This character depended very much on that of the landed proprietors and resident gentry; and Mrs Hutchinson's memoirs are chiefly valuable, as containing a picture of that class of the community.
Agriculture was at this period still the chief occupation of the people; and the form of the society was consequently that of a rustic aristocracy. The country gentlemen,-who have since been worn down by luxury and taxation, superseded by the activity of office, and eclipsed by the opulence of trade, were then all and all in England; and the nation at large derived from them its habits, prejudices, and opinions. Educated almost entirely at home, their manners were not yet accommodated to a general European standard, but retained all those national peculiarities which united and endeared them to the rest of their countrymen. Constitutionally serious, and living much with their families, they had in general more solid learning and more steady morality than the gentry of other countries. Exercised in local magistracies, and frequently assembled for purposes of national cooperation, they became conscious of their power, and jealous of their privileges and having been trained up in a dread and detestation of that which had been the recent cause of so many wars popery and persecutions, their religious sentiments had contracted somewhat of an austere and polemical character, and had not yet settled from the ferment of reformation into tranquil and regulated piety. It was upon this side, accordingly, that they were most liable to error: and the extravagances into which a great part of them was actually betrayed, has been the chief cause of the misrepresentations to which they were then exposed, and of the misconception which still prevails as to their character and principles of action.
In the middle of the reign of Charles I., almost the whole nation was serious and devout. The license and excess which is
* NO. XXIV. p. 282, &c.
in some degree inseparable from a state of war, fell chiefly upon the Royalists; who made it a point of duty indeed to deride the sanc→ tity and rigid morality of their opponents; and they again exaggerated, out of party hatred, the peculiarities by which they were most obviously distinguished from their antagonists. Thus mutually receding from each other, from feelings of general hostility, they were gradually led to realize the imputations of which they were reciprocally the subjects. The cavaliers gave way to a certain degree of licentiousness; and the adherents of the parliament became, for the most part, really morose and enthusiastic. At the restoration, the cavaliers obtained a complete and final triumph over their sanctimonious opponents; and the exiled monarch and his nobles imported from the continent a taste for dissipation, and a toleration for debauchery, far exceeding any thing that had previously been known in England. It is from the wits of that court, however, and the writers of that party, that the succeeding and the present age have derived their notions of the puritans. In reducing these notions to the standard of truth, it is not easy to determine how large an allowance ought to be made for the exaggerations of party hatred, the perversions of witty malice, and the illusions of habitual superiority. It is certain, however, that ridicule, toleration, and luxury, gradually annihilated the puritans in the higher ranks of society; and after times seeing their practices and principles exemplified only among the lowest and most illiterate of mankind, readily caught the tone of contempt which had been assumed by their triumphant enemies; and found no absurdity in believing that the base and contemptible beings who were described under the name of puritans by the courtiers of Charles II., were true representatives of that valiant and conscientious party which once numbered half the gentry of England among its votaries and adherents.
That the popular conceptions of the austerities and abfurdities of the old Roundheads and Prefbyterians are greatly exaggerated, will probably be allowed by every one at all converfant with the fubject; but we know of nothing fo well calculated to diffipate the exifting prejudices on the fubject as this book of Mrs Hutchinfon. Instead of a fet of gloomy bigots waging war with all the elegancies and gaieties of life, we find, in this calumniated order, ladies of the firft birth and fashion, at once converting their husbands to Anabaptism, and inftructing their children in mufic and dancing,-valiant Prefbyterian colonels refuting the errors of Arminius, collecting pictures, and practifing, with great applaufe, on the violin,-ftout efquires, at the fame time, praying and quaffing October with their godly tenants, and noble lords difputing with their chaplains on points of theology in the
evening, and taking them out a-hunting in the morning. There is nothing, in fhort, more curious and inftructive, than the glimpfes which we here catch of the old hofpitable and orderly life of the country gentlemen of England, in those days when the national character was fo high and fo peculiar,-when civiliza tion had produced all its effect but that of corruption,--and when ferious ftudies and dignified pursuits had not yet been abandoned to a paltry and effeminate derifion. Undoubtedly, in reviewing the annals of thofe times, we are ftruck with a loftier air of manhood than prefents itfelf in any after era; and recognize the fame characters of deep thought and steady enthufiafm, and the fame principles of fidelity and self-command which ennobled the better days of the Roman Republic, and have made every thing elfe appear childify and frivolous in the comparison.
One of the moft ftriking and valuable things in Mrs Hutchin-. fon's performance, is the information which it affords us as to the manners and condition of women in the period with which fhe is occupied. This is a point in which all hiftories of public events are almost neceffarily defective; though it is evident that, without attending to it, our notions of the ftate and character of any people must be extremely imperfect and erroneous. Mrs Hutchinfon, however, enters into no formal difquifition upon this fubject. What we learn from her in relation to it, is learnt incidentally-partly on occafion of fome anecdotes which it fails in her way to recite-but chiefly from what she is led to narrate or difclofe as to her own education, conduct, or opinions. If it were allowable to take the portrait which the has thus indirectly finished of herself as a juft reprefentation of her fair contemporaries, we fhould form a moft exalted notion of the republican matrons of England. Making a flight deduction for a few traits of aufterity, borrowed from the bigotry of the age, we do not know where to look for a more noble and engaging character than that under which this lady prefents herself to her readers; nor do we believe that any age of the world has produced fo worthy a counterpart to the Valerias and Portias of antiquity. With a high-minded feeling of patriotifm and public honour, the feems to have been poffeffed by the moft dutiful and devoted attachment to her husband; and to have combined a taste for learning and the arts with the most active kindness and munificent hofpitality to all who came within the fphere of her bounty. To a quick percep tion of character, fhe appears to have united a masculine force of understanding, and a fingular capacity for affairs; and to have poffeffed and exercised all thofe talents, without affecting any fuperiority over the reft of her fex, or abandoning for a fingle inftant the delicacy and referve which were then its most indispens
able ornaments. Education, certainly, is far more generally dif fufed in our days, and accomplishments infinitely more common; but the perufal of this volume has taught us to doubt, whether the better fort of women were not fashioned of old by a better and more exalted standard, and whether the most eminent female of the present day would not appear to disadvantage by the fide of Mrs Hutchinfon. There is, for the most part, fomething intriguing and profligate and theatrical in the clever women of this generation; and if we are dazzled by their brilliancy, and delighted with their talent, we can scarcely ever guard against fome distrust of their judgment, or fome fufpicion of their purity. There is fomething in the domeftic virtue and the calm and commanding mind of our English matron, that makes the Corinnes and Heloises appear very small and infignificant.
The admirers of modern talent will not accufe us of choofing an ignoble competitor, if we defire them to weigh the merits of Mrs Hutchinfon against thofe of Madame Roland. The English revolutionist did not indeed compose weekly pamphlets and addreffes to the municipalities;-because it was not the fashion, in her days, to print every thing that entered into the heads of politicians. But the fhut herself up with her husband in the garrifon with which he was entrufted, and shared his counfels as well as his hazards. She encouraged the troops by her cheerfulness and heroifm-miniftered to the fick; and dreffed with her own hands the wounds of the captives, as well as of their victors. When her husband was imprifoned on groundless fufpicions, fhe laboured, without ceafing, for his deliverance-confounded his oppreffors by her eloquence and arguments-tended him with unfhaken fortitude in fickness and folitude-and, after his deceafe, dedicated herfelf to form his children to the example of his virtues; and drew up the memorial which is now before us of his worth, and her own genius and affection. All this, too, fhe did without ftepping beyond the province of a private woman-without hunting after compliments to her own genius or beauty-without fneering at the dulnefs, or murmuring at the coldnefs of her husband-without hazarding the fate of her country on the dictates of her own enthusiasm, or fancying for a moment that she was born with talents to enchant and regenerate the world. With equal power of difcriminating character, with equal candour and eloquence and zeal for the general good, fhe is elevated beyond her French competitor by fuperior prudence and modefty, and by a certain fimplicity and purity of character, of which, it appears to us, that the other was unable to form a conception.
After detaining the reader so long with these general observations, we shall only withhold him from the quotations which we mean to lay before him, while we announce, that Mrs Hutchin
son writes in a sort of lofty, classical, translated style; which is occasionally diffuse and pedantic, but often attains to great dig nity and vigour, and still more frequently charms us by a sort of antique simplicity and sweetness, admirably in unison with the sentiments and manners it is employed to represent.
The fragment of her own history, with which the volume opens, is not the least interesting, and perhaps the most characteristic part of its contents. The following brief account of her nativity, will at once make the reader acquainted with the pitch of this lady's sentiments and expressions.
It was on the 29th day of January, in the yeare of our Lord 16, that in the Tower of London, the principall citie of the Engligh Isle, I was about 4 of the clock in the morning brought forth to behold the ensuing light. My father was Sr. Allen Apsley, leiftenant of the Tower of London; my mother, his third wife, was Lucy, the youngest daughter of Sr. John St. John, of Lidiard Tregoz, in Wiltshire, by his second wife. My father had then living a sonne and a daughter by his former wives, and by my mother three sonns, I being her eldest daughter. The land was then att peace, (it being towards the latter end of the reigne of King James), if that quiettnesse may be call'd a peace, which was rather like the calme and smooth surface of the sea, whose darke womb is allready impregnat ed of a horrid tempest. p. 2, 3.
She then draws the character of both her parents in a very graceful and engaging manner, but on a scale somewhat too large to admit of their being transferred entire into our pages. We give the following as a specimen of the style and execution.
'He was a most indulgent husband, and no lesse kind to his chil dren; a most noble master, who thought it not enough to maintaine his servants honorably while they were with him, but, for all that deserv'd it, provided offices or settlements as for children. He was a father to all his prisoners, sweetning with such compassionate kindnesse their restraint, that the afliction of a prison was not felt in his dayes. He had a singular kindnesse for all persons that were eminent either in learning or armes; and when, through the ingratitude and vice of that age, many of the wives and chilldren of Queene Elizabeth's glorious captaines were reduc'd to poverty, his purse was their common treasury, and they knew not the inconvenience of decay'd fortunes till he was dead: many of those valliant seamen he maintain'd in prison, many he redeem'd out of prison and cherisht with an extraordinary bounty. He was severe in the regulating of his famely; especially would not endure the least immodest behaviour or dresse in any woman under his roofe. There was nothing he hated more then an insignificant gallant, that could only make his leggs and prune himselfe, and court a lady, but had not braines to employ himselfe in things more suteable to man's nobler sex. Fidelity in his trust, love and loyalty to his prince, were not the least of his vertues,